“Even the haughtiest hotels, which are famously loath to cut prices in bad times for fear they will not be able to raise them in good times, are in a deal-making mood…”
— New York Times
For the past 14 years, Wendy G. has worked about every stage of hospitality, from the hotel front desk, all the way up to operations and beyond. She used to train hotel reservationists to keep you on the phone and negotiate prices… and she knows better than anyone how to work the system.
Here are seven of Wendy’s insider tips for booking a killer deal and getting the best possible deal in hotels with three or more stars.
** 1. Book directly with the hotel. This can be tricky, so call the hotel front desk and ask to speak with the “on-site reservationist.”
Use these words to avoid being sent to the reservations 800-number, which is generally a separate company that isn’t open to negotiation and can’t access the best deals. Booking online can get you a good deal, but you can’t negotiate, and you’ll likely be placed in a lower-quality room.
** 2. Appeal to the “human factor” for negotiating power. Once you get an on-site reservationist on the phone, let her know why you’re excited to go to that hotel. Going on your honeymoon? Let your excitement show. Most reservationists want your business… but they also want to make you happy.
** 3. Be nice. When I asked Wendy what hotel workers would want the public to know, she said, “If you’re nice, you’re much more likely to get what you want. If you’re unkind, you’ll pay full price for the room by the elevator.”
** 4. Ask for the price you want. Most reservationists are trained to keep you on the phone. Three phrases they respond to are: “That rate’s a bit much,” “I’m going to look around,” and “I’ll call you back.” Go ahead and let your reservationist know that you’re looking for something cheaper.
** 5. Try someone else. If you still don’t get the deal you’re looking for, call back a few hours later to see if you can catch someone from the next shift (if it’s someone else from the same shift, it might not work). Last time Wendy booked a room, she tried this. Talking to a second person saved her $80 a night.
** 6. Ask for a nicer room. If you’re already getting a discount, you’ll be less likely to get upgraded to a nicer room for free. But, if you didn’t get a discount, you can try paying the standard rate and asking for a room upgrade. Specify that you’d like to get a room away from the elevator, if possible (elevator rooms are noisy). And tell the reservationist why. Do you have insomnia? Or maybe a job interview early in the morning? Stating a reason for your request often helps in the persuasion process.
** 7. Sniff out freebies. Wendy says the first rule to getting freebies from hotels is to avoiding using the word “free.” It won’t get you on your reservationist’s good side. Instead, try asking for a “Bed and Breakfast Rate,” which (at some hotels) gives you a 10% discount and a free breakfast. Or, if you’re booking more than one room, but not enough to qualify for a group rate, try asking your reservationist for complimentary drink tickets for the bar.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]